SpaceX launches moon lander, lands booster despite tough conditions

SpaceX launches moon lander, lands booster despite tough conditions

SpaceX launches moon lander, lands booster despite tough conditions

SpaceIL was founded eight years ago to compete in the Google Lunar X Prize, an global competition to see whether a private enterprise could land a spacecraft on the moon, move 500 meters in any direction, and transmit live, high-definition video from the lunar surface.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Florida on Thursday night carrying Israel's first lunar lander on a mission that if successful will make the Jewish state only the fourth nation to achieve a controlled touchdown on the moon's surface.

Spaceflight Industries acts as a broker for satellite operators that need to get into space, finding extra room on rockets already launching. The other two items taken up were an Indonesian communications satellite and a US Air Force experimental satellite.

US satellite manufacturer Space Systems Loral, a Maxar company, purchased the Falcon 9 launch on behalf of its customer Pasifik Satelit Nusantara, or PSN.

So far, only Russian Federation, the United States and China have made the 384,000-kilometer (239,000-mile) journey and landed spacecraft on the Moon.

The project, which has been funded by billionaire entrepreneurs such as Morris Kahn and.

The U.S., Russian Federation and China have all passed by or orbited the lunar surface before, but none have made a soft landing and taken photos, as this mission plans to do, TechCrunch reports. This helps explain why Beresheet is taking such a long and circuitous route to the moon - the lander didn't have its own dedicated rocket to launch it on a direct path.

About 30 minutes after liftoff, the spacecraft will disengage from the SpaceX Falcon 9 at around 60,000 kilometers above Earth's surface, beginning, under its own power, a two-month voyage to the Moon's surface.

If the mission succeeds, it could unlock information the moon's iron core.

"We'll keep analyzing the data, but bottom line is we entered the very exclusive group of countries that have launched a spacecraft to the moon", said Yigal Harel, head of SpaceIL's spacecraft program.

As CNN noted, the first hard landing on the moon came in 1959, when Russian Federation launched Luna 2, which crashed onto the moon; the US followed with Ranger 4 in 1962. If successful, it would be the world's first private lunar landing. Once in the geostationary transfer orbit, Beresheet was deployed first at a mission-elapsed-time of about 34 minutes.

You can watch the live launch here.

But it will have just enough time to carry out its primary objectives: plant an Israeli flag on the moon, measure the moon's magnetic field, study surrounding lunar craters, and of course, take some epic lunar selfies. Once it lands, the probe will conduct various experiments on the Moon's surface, testing its magnetism and geology. NASA has a laser reflector aboard Beresheet and is offering its Deep Space Network for communication.

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